Probate Horror Stories

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1st Nov 2012

Many of us have heard the probate horror stories of friends, loved ones and even perhaps well known individuals. Probate occurs when a deceased loved one’s assets get tied up in court typically because they did not have the proper paperwork in place to allocate their assets to the people they wish them to go to.

You may find it surprising that most of the so called “horror” stories you hear don’t actually have anything to do with the courts themselves.  Rather, the problems arise with the way the estate was being handled prior to the death. When people who have assets, whether it be a lot of just 1 home, do not put the proper estate planning documents in place, their descendants then have to spend a lot of time, energy and money going through to court system to get what they feel belongs to them.

Let’s take the example of the Ana Nicole Smith case.  When she married J. Howard Marshall at 26 (he was 89), he died a year after their marriage.  While he was alive he showered her with gifts, clothing and money, but he never officially added her to his will.

She then claimed that he had promised her a portion of his estate.  Research later showed that this was in fact true, but Howard’s son made sure that this wish was not followed.  So what happened?

They spent over 10 years fighting over the estate in probate court! Situations like this are the extreme, but they do happen. This can easily be avoided by having the proper documents drafted to protect your assets by an estate planning attorney.

Even if you are young, if you own any sort of assets and especially is people depend on you financially for their survival, then it is best to have your attorney draft a will. This will prevent your heirs from years of struggle, stress and money outlay that is unnecessary.

If you have questions about estate planning or probate, feel free to contact Dwight Tompkins for a free consultation. 

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